Teacher retention has been an issue in the education field for a long time, says Education Week, but none of the suggested solutions have found a way to fix the problem. In a report issued by TNTP, experts suggest failure from school principals and officials to acknowledge and reward quality teachers may be largely responsible.
“It’s a common sense idea many of us who have been involved in education felt was true. Now we have some evidence that there’s a difference between good retention and bad retention,” said Segun C. Eubanks, the director of teacher quality for the National Education Association. “I think that’s an important contribution to the field.”
What the report revealed was that school administrators often fail to identify and encourage high-performing teachers in their school. Among those teaching grades kindergarten through 12, researchers found quality is not often considered in matters of teacher retention.
“The first part of good retention is that you’re hiring and training the right folks, so they’re ready from day one in the first place,” said Eubanks. “A question we’d have is what impact a much more thoughtful recruitment and preparation system would have on this whole retention issue.”
The study, which consisted of personal records from 90,000 United States teachers as well as a sampling of 20,000 teachers evaluated based on student performance, indicated only 20 percent could be classified as “irreplaceable.”
Those categorized as irreplaceable teachers had students advancing months ahead compared to students of teachers operating at average level.
The findings further indicate that “irreplaceables” left at a similar rate compared to average or least successful teachers, showing a system not based on quality evaluation when it comes to teacher retention efforts.
The high-performing teachers are most likely to stay in settings where administrators set guidelines and establish a firm teaching culture.
Because no link exists between teacher quality and teacher retention for many school administrators, the report found low-performing schools are most affected. Researchers pointed out low-performing schools are often more unable to retain quality teachers, and when a high-performing educator leaves, he or she is only replaced by someone of equal caliber one tenth of the time.
While the TNTP study is not the first to investigate the high turnover among educators, it is the first study to point toward education administrators as a large part of the issue.
“Principals tell themselves low-performers are going to improve, and therefore they don’t have to address it; and they say there’s nothing they can do to retain high-performing teachers,” said Timothy Daly, the president of TNTP. “Both of those things we see as largely untrue.”
Researchers suggest paying top performing teachers six-figure salaries; having school principals set educational guidelines and goals; closer monitoring of working conditions; and removing teachers based on poor performance.